Allen Craig Rumors

AL East Links: Jeter, Beckham, Orioles

Derek Jeter has been worth only 0.1 fWAR in his final season, and the Yankees‘ insistence on keeping him as the regular shortstop and in the No. 2 spot in the batting order is hurting the team, CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa writes.  Jeter is too proud and/or competitive to ask to be dropped in the lineup or take anything less than an everyday role, and the Yankees seem fine with the status quo given Jeter’s stature, Axisa opines.  The problem is that Jeter’s lack of production in a key lineup spot might cost the Yankees a playoff spot.

Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • The Orioles have talked to multiple clubs about trading for an infielder, and they checked in on Gordon Beckham at some point before the White Sox dealt him to the Angels, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports.  Since the Angels (who own the best record in baseball) claimed Beckham on waivers, that would mean the O’s had an initial chance to claim the second baseman themselves but chose to pass.
  • Also from Kubatko’s piece, he notes that the Orioles had a potential trade fall through once word got out about Manny Machado‘s season-ending knee surgery.  Presumably, the Machado news meant that the other team raised its asking price.  As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported earlier this week, O’s officials were upset that Machado’s injury status became public, as it lowered their leverage in trade talks.
  • Allen Craig‘s career is profiled by WEEI.com’s Nick Canelas, detailing the Red Sox first baseman’s early days to how the Cardinals scouted and drafted him to his current status in Boston.
  • The Red Sox have a lot of decisions to make about their 2015 bullpen, and assistant GM Mike Hazen tells Jason Mastrodonato of MassLive.com that the team would be open to “spend more money on the back-end guy” if necessary.  Such a move could be needed if Koji Uehara isn’t re-signed.
  • The development of young pitchers like Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris and Drew Hutchison is a big reason why Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos will likely keep his job despite the Jays’ fade from contention, Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair writes.  Anthopoulos is also helped by the fact that modern organizations generally give their general managers at least enough time on the job to see what their drafting and player development plans can produce.

Cardinals Acquire Lackey; Kelly, Craig To Boston

In their second blockbuster trade of the day, the Red Sox sent veteran starting pitcher John Lackey to the Cardinals along with minor leaguer Corey Littrell and about $1.75MM in cash in exchange for young starter Joe Kelly and outfielder/first baseman Allen Craig.  The deal is now official.   The Red Sox continue to focus on players that can help them win in the near future, having traded Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes for Yoenis Cespedes earlier today.  The Cardinals further bolster their rotation, having acquired Justin Masterson from the Indians yesterday.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at New York Yankees

Lackey, 35, has a 3.60 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.98 HR/9, and 46.9% groundball rate in 137 1/3 innings this year. His 2014 numbers closely resemble his work last year, a resurgent season after his 2011 campaign culminated in Tommy John surgery and he missed all of 2012. A second round draft pick in 1999, Lackey spent the early part of his career as a front of the rotation workhorse for the Angels.

Lackey joins Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn at the front of a St. Louis rotation that suffered several blows this year.  Jaime Garcia is out for the season after rib surgery this month, while Michael Wacha will return in September in the best case scenario as he recovers from a stress reaction in his pitching shoulder.  In addition, the Cards received unspectacular work from Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly.  Masterson is due back soon from a DL stint for knee inflammation, and hopes to put this year’s struggles behind him before reaching free agency.  The Cardinals are currently in third place and 2.5 games out in the NL Central, and one game out in the Wild Card.

The Cardinals also receive Littrell, a 22-year-old starter in High-A ball who was drafted in the fifth round last year out of the University of Kentucky.  He owns a 3.60 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, and 0.72 HR/9 in 100 frames this year.  Littrell did not rank among the Cardinals’ top 30 prospects prior to the season in the eyes of Baseball America, though BA ranked the team’s farm system seventh overall.

Kelly, 26, posted a 4.37 ERA, 6.4 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.77 HR/9, and 54.3% groundball rate in 35 innings for the Cardinals this year.  He won the team’s fifth starter job out of spring training, but injured his hamstring in mid-April and missed nearly three months.  Kelly will have two years and 116 days of Major League service after 2014, meaning he’ll likely miss Super Two status and won’t become arbitration eligible until after the 2015 season.  He’s under team control through 2018.  Kelly boasts an average fastball velocity near 95 miles per hour, a 3.25 career ERA, and 29 1/3 innings of postseason experience, but his peripheral stats don’t quite match up.

Craig, 30, has slumped to a .237/.291/.346 line in 398 plate appearances this year.  He hit .306/.358/.492 in 1,420 plate appearances prior to 2014, suggesting he could bounce back for Boston.  Craig signed a five-year, $31MM deal with the Cardinals in March 2013, of which about $26.4MM remains through 2017.  The deal also includes a club option for 2018.  Craig has appeared at first base and the outfield corners in his career, though he’s generally regarded as a below-average defensive outfielder.  The Red Sox have designated hitter David Ortiz potentially through 2017, though first baseman Mike Napoli and outfielders Yoenis Cespedes and Shane Victorino are signed only through 2015.

The 2011 Tommy John procedure plays a large role in Lackey’s trade value. When the Red Sox signed Lackey to a five-year free agent deal in December 2009, concerns over his elbow led to a clause creating a club option for the league-minimum salary for 2015, which was triggered with the Tommy John procedure. That means playing for little more than $500K next year after earning more than 30 times that much in each of the previous four seasons.  Lackey has told the Cardinals he plans to honor the club option, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

This season, Lackey has a bit over $5MM in salary remaining, plus a $500K assignment bonus for being dealt. He had been scheduled to start tomorrow in Boston as the Red Sox kick off a three-game set against the Yankees.

Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com first reported the Red Sox were close to trading Lackey to the Cardinals or Dodgers.  Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first identified the Cardinals.  Peter Gammons of MLB Network first named Joe Kelly and Allen Craig as part of the deal.  WEEI’s Alex Speier first named Corey Littrell as part of the deal, while Yahoo’s Jeff Passan was first to report the cash involved.  Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Cardinals Extend Allen Craig

12:04pm: Craig will earn $1.75MM in 2013, $2.75MM in 2014, $5.5MM in 2015, $9MM in 2016 and $11MM in 2017, according to Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch. The 2018 option is valued at $13MM with a $1MM buyout.

10:52am: Craig obtains a $31MM guarantee, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (on Twitter).

9:41am: The Cardinals announced that they agreed to a five-year extension with first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig (Twitter link). The deal runs through the 2017 season and includes a club option for 2018. ACES represents Craig.

Allen Craig - Cardinals (PW)

Craig, 28, is now entering his final season as a pre-arbitration eligible player. The contract covers his final pre-arb year, his three arbitration seasons, and at least one free agent year. The club option gives the Cardinals the chance to retain Craig for a second free agent year.

Craig got plenty of playing time as a first baseman and corner outfielder in 2012, and he responded with a tremendous season that earned him some recognition on NL MVP ballots. In 514 plate appearances, the right-handed hitter posted a .307/.354/.522 batting line with 22 home runs. Craig also impressed in 2011, when he posted a .917 OPS in 219 plate appearances.

While terms of the deal aren't known, it won't be surprising if it's worth $30MM or so. Many others have signed long-term deals covering the same seasons as Craig's deal, as MLBTR's Extension Tracker shows. When Andrew McCutchen, Justin Upton, Jay Bruce, Cameron Maybin and Curtis Granderson signed long-term deals, this five-year period was valued in the $25-36MM range (some of those players signed six-year deals).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Mariners Seek Controllable Hitters

2:35pm: The Mariners are trying hard to obtain Brandon Belt, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs reports (on Twitter).

1:32pm: Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik is looking to acquire hitters who could contribute for the next two or three seasons, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports. The Mariners aim to improve an offense that currently ranks last in the American League with just 3.9 runs per game. 

The Mariners are more focused on players such as Josh Willingham and Allen Craig than players like Shin-Soo Choo and Hunter Pence. Choo and Pence are eligible for free agency after the 2013 season, while Willingham is under contract through 2014 and Craig won't even be arbitration eligible before the 2013-14 offseason.


Rosenthal On Twins, Cardinals, Sizemore

With opening weekend in full swing, Ken Rosenthal has his first Full Count video of the season up over at FOX Sports. Let's check out the highlights….

  • The Twins' outfield is worth keeping an eye on, since Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are facing free agency after 2011 and many of the team's top prospects are outfielders. Rosenthal says it's "even possible" that the Twins could trade Denard Span, who is signed through 2014.
  • While Matt Holliday recovers from his appendectomy, the Cardinals are comfortable platooning Allen Craig and Jon Jay. Craig is "highly sought after" in trade talks, particularly by American League teams, according to Rosenthal. However, the Cards aren't inclined to move him.
  • Even if Grady Sizemore returns to form in the coming months, he's not likely to be dealt at the trade deadline. His 2012 club option becomes a player option if he's traded, so if they wanted to explore a deal, the Indians would probably do so next winter, after picking up the option.